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Carnoustie is one of the world's great courses and there's never been a better time to play it
Carnoustie, one of the best-known courses and best tests of golf in the UK - and that means anywhere in the world - is not resting on its laurels and still works hard to both attract new golfers and encourage people back who have already played there.

It has introduced a number of options that allows play on two or all three courses for a significant discount and is even giving golfers the chance to play in winter for £25 a head, which is virtually a quarter of the usual summer fee.

Golf services manager Colin McLeod explains: 'One thing we have introduced is a three-course combination ticket; we tried it out in the summer for £110 and people seemed to like it. When speaking to people locally I became aware that many visiting golfers to Carnoustie only come for the day - they get bussed in and bussed out again. We offered a combination ticket that was any two of our three courses but you can play two courses in a day and the problem was that visitors weren't staying here overnight and we didn't offer something that would induce them to. Now, if they're coming in and know they will be playing three rounds they are going to stay overnight.

'In addition to offering golfers a good deal it will protect jobs and bring money into the local economy. And at the price we're offering the ticket it's effectively a "buy two, get one free" deal, and it's valid over a three-day period.'

Carnoustie suggested that people play the Buddon, Burnside and Championship courses, in that order, as it gave them a chance to get in a bit of golf and practice on good but not too demanding courses before tackling the more awesome Championship. And when you consider that in high season a round on the Championship alone was £95 this year (2004), it's not difficult to see why the deal proved to be particularly popular.

As Colin McLeod says: 'In the UK, yes, £95 is expensive for a round of golf but £110 for three rounds is great value. For 2005 that price is going up to £113, which is still an excellent deal. Really I was just testing the water to see what the interest would be and had no preconceived ideas of what response we might have but of course, the Burnside has a lot of history in its own right, partly as an Open Championship qualifier, and this gives people a chance to discover some of it.

'In fact, we've got two very good tracks apart from the Championship but of course they can be over-shadowed. And we also put society packages together that can take in any combination of all three courses.'

The course is already preparing to host the 2007 Open Championship and 88 trees have already been removed from the right of the seventh (behind the 'Hogan's Alley' green). The change has been in the pipeline for some time because it was considered that they didn't add anything to the play or scenery of the holes, they weren't too healthy and their removal has opened up the views of the course. They will be replaced with mounding and gorse.

The third hole, Jockie's Burn, has also been changed. It's a natural dogleg, short par four but people tended to drive straight and as a consequence there's a gathering area, off the fairway, up the right side that tends to get a lot of wear and tear - this is the reason that part of the hole has to be closed in winter. To counteract this the dogleg is being increased and more mounding is being added to the gathering area to encourage golfers to play the hole as a dogleg. In addition, the fairway is being widened and an extra bunker is being added, to further ensure that the hole will be played in the way it was designed to be.

Colin McLeod adds: 'During the winter on the Championship we're also offering £99 for a tee-time, so a fourball can get on for less than £25 each. There is a bit of different routing in the winter but that's mainly to avoid the area on the third we discussed earlier. We effectively shorten it to a par three.

'We're already completely booked out on the Championship during next year's Open week (at St Andrews) except for a pair of twoball times but there's still quite a lot of availability in the weeks leading up to the Open,' he says.

The Open has been staged at Carnoustie six times since 1931, when it was won by Tommy Armour, and most recently in 1999, when Paul Lawrie lifted the claret jug on a day when he overcame the biggest final-day deficit in Major history - 10 strokes - on overnight leader Jean Van De Velde, who famously came to grief at the 72nd hole. But perhaps the most famous win was Ben Hogan's in 1953, the only time he played in the Championship. He also won the Masters and US Open that year but could not compete in the US PGA Championship because the date clashed with the Open. In addition, he stopped playing the US PGA after the 1949 road accident in which he nearly died because the gruelling, six-day matchplay format was too much for his injured legs to take.

And if the history, tradition and challenge of this great links were not enough of an inducement, a recent report from The Sports Turf Research Institute says that Carnoustie is in the top 1-2% of the courses it inspects. The visit was on behalf of the R&A and the subsequent report said: 'The Championship is in superb order - it is a privilege for golfers to play these links.'

Next year (05) the Carnoustie green fees will be: £26 for the Buddon, £31 for the Burnside and £98 for the Championship (it remains the only course on the Open rota, it believes, to still offer a round for under £100) but the real value is in opting for one of the combination tickets.

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©    1 - DECEMBER 2004

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